In the October 15 issue of the Venezuelan newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, I noticed an advertisement sponsored by the government that had a dark skinned woman as the principal figure. I decided check the ads in the full color magazine that accompanies the newspaper on Sundays. Not one dark-skinned person appeared in any of the commercial advertisements.
Often when I am with foreign visitors driving down one of the highways in Caracas I ask them to count all the dark-skinned people they see on the billboards. A three-year old could count as far.
Many people say there was no distinction between different groups before Chávez came to power. I guess they feel that if the black and white of Yin and Yang could fit together in harmony, next to each other but clearly distinguished from one another, the same represented perfect harmony among human beings of different color.
Venezuela still has a long way to go to eliminate racial prejudice-doesn't the whole world?
Open your mouth; open your eyes
A few nights ago I had a dream that I was in a building when two high school acquaintances walked in. The first seemed to be very nervous and concerned. The second was carrying an object hidden beneath his arm, wrapped in a cloth. I was worried about what was about to happen.
Having read in recent days about another shooting in a U.S. high school, I was expecting the worse. Then the two men confronted one another and the one pulled out from under the cloth-an electric drill. His friend had a toothache and had asked him to see if he could eliminate the cavity.
With that I awoke and began reflecting on the millions of U.S. citizens who do not have hospitalization coverage and even more who do not have dental benefits. If the man had been in Venezuela, he could have gone to a free dental clinic. Shouldn't the same be possible in the U.S.?
Recently there was an African film festival in Venezuela. I attended some showings and, after one, a woman mentioned that she couldn't attend the next day because she was going to have an eye operation for myopia. I said that I suffer the same problem. She replied that I should go to the Perez Careno hospital and sign up for a free operation. That is what she had done.
In spite of my eye problems, every day I see more clearly why what is happening in Venezuela is a threat to the government of the United States, which has plenty of money for war efforts but not enough for the health care of its citizens.
Fidel and Hugo
To the chagrin of ex-Cubans in Florida, on Sunday, October 15, Fidel Castro appeared on television with President Chávez in a taped presentation. Then the two carried on an hour-long conversation by telephone.
The interchange was interesting, but I got a little tired before the end of it and telephoned one of my sisters in the United States. I told her about a book that I had been reading. She said she had been reading a book also and shared a story from it.
One day a man was about to commit suicide by jumping off a high bridge into a river below. A policeman came along and was able to talk to the man. The man shared his problems with the policeman, who listened attentively. When the man finally finished, the policeman jumped off the bridge with him.
Afterwards I was reflecting again on the anguish of the ex-Cubans in Miami. What if Fidel Castro lives to be one hundred-or even to one hundred and ten? It must be horrible for them as they suffer in Coral Gables or Palm Beach. I was also reflecting on the ex-Venezuelans who listen to the ex-Cubans.
I don't know Miami well. Are there many bridges there?
If today were your last
Joan Manuel Serrat is a Spanish singer with a great number of fans in Venezuela. I have the words of one of his songs on my refrigerator. It starts out something like this (the translation into English is my own): "Today can be a great day./ Decide to make it such/ Whether you take advantage of it or whether it simply passes by/ depends a lot on you."
I find the words motivating whenever I read them, but today I was reflecting on the lines: "Today can be a great day/ where everything is waiting to be discovered/ if you look at is as if it were the last day of your life."
I've heard that idea many times: live today as if it were the last day of your life. It sounds nice, but thinking about it I came to realize that I wouldn't do any of the things that I normally do. For example, I certainly wouldn't be in front of the computer writing this right now.
And, if you were living today as if it were the last day of your life, I am sure you wouldn't be spending your time reading this either.
I still like the song-and I will look at the beautiful blue Caribbean sky a little longer today. And yes, I did see the iguana as it dashed across the parking lot a bit ago-and I did greet it as it passed by.
(Charles Hardy is author of Cowboy in Caracas: A North American's Memoir of Venezuela's Democratic Revolution, published by Curbstone Press, www.curbstone.org Other essays by Hardy can be found on his personal blog www.cowboyincaracas.com . You may write him at [email protected].)